This is an area that I am still working on, and will probably have to work on my whole life. I don’t have anger issues or anything, but there are certain situations that make me stressed or upset and I have to work hard to wrestle control back over my emotions.
I always used to get very annoyed when people would say ‘It is your choice if someone upsets you.’ I thought that was a load of rubbish. Whether I’m upset or not is a direct reaction to the situation I’m in, not a choice. But the older I get, the more I’m reluctantly agreeing that it is a choice. Everything you do (bar getting ill or something terrible happening to you) is your choice. Your actions are your choice, your words are your choice, how you react to events is your choice, whether you forgive is your choice.
Let me give you some examples. Sometimes I get stressed when I’m in situations out of my control. I like to feel very calm, organised and outwardly appear to be an absolutely cool, collected individual. So when I lose control of a situation, such as when technology goes wrong and I’m trying not to look incompetent in front of a client, I can get extremely stressed very quickly. This does not look good and makes me very angry at myself, firstly for reacting that way, but also for not being perfect, which is crazy when you think about it. I find it hard to release this pent up stress and my body’s reaction is to want to cry to release it, which isn’t always the most suitable response, as you can imagine! This is something I am still working on rationalising. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself and don’t cut myself much slack because I have a need to prove to the world that I am a confident, independent person. For the same reason, I get upset over not being able to contribute to the household as much money as my partner, and I tend to monopolise control over said household to make sure it is done to the standard my personality demands. Basically I need to learn to chill.
In the same way, I am now trying to rationalise when I get upset occasionally at home. Usually I’m extremely happy with my home life but sometimes I feel like the mum of the house, trying to manage everything at once, when actually my partner is right there and always happy to help but just on his iPad or something at that particular moment in time. I have a strong sense of when a situation feels unjust and it tends to flare up occasionally at these moments and make me feel upset. I have to say though, my other half does an awful lot around the house and I need to learn more to rationalise these moments. 1) He can’t read my mind and do things exactly when I want him to if I don’t say anything, 2) if something isn’t done straight away when I think of it, it isn’t actually the end of the world, 3) again, I just need to learn to chill and ask for help if I want it instead of fuming internally because it wasn’t offered right at that second.
Forgiveness is also a choice, and you can read some pretty surprising accounts of people who have chosen to forgive even the most horrible things. I’m not saying you should always forgive, I’m just saying it’s a choice. I have an ex that I found extremely emotionally manipulative but who I stayed friends with for quite a while after he finished with me. As time passed, I grew more annoyed at myself for how I’d let him treat me and I started really disliking him. These days we don’t talk and I haven’t forgiven the way he would treat me, because it wasn’t nice or fair and why should I forgive that. But I have forgiven myself. I was young, and at the time I loved him, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the experiences I went through back then. I deserve forgiveness for allowing myself to feel mistreated and accepting it as the norm. These days I know that people who really love you do not make you cry.
My partner sometimes feels bad because he can see that I’m down but I don’t explain why. This isn’t to torture him and I’d rather not have him feeling bad, but I need time to be able to explain why I’m upset, and most of the time when I’ve really thought about it, I realise that it is because of an issue that I’ve created myself based on my fears and past experiences, not really the situation I’m in. Once I know that, it’s easier to choose to let that feeling go.
The thing is, if you are down you can either choose to wallow in it or you can put on some happy music and jump around until it goes away. Your emotions belong to you. It’s very hard sometimes and it takes time to understand why you feel a certain way, but it’s easier if you remember that it is your choice. Even if you’re not like me, if you are upset because of a situation you are in rather than something in your mind, you can still choose to remove yourself from that situation. It’s not an easy choice, but it is yours to make.